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"stand Your Ground" Florida Law---double Standard ?

Editor's Note: AC360's Gary Tuchman tells the story of Marissa Alexander, a woman who fired a gun in self-defense against her abusive husband. The case provides another example under which to examine Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law. Gary's producer, Chuck Hadad, wrote the companion text piece for CNN.com

Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of three, pleaded for her freedom as an inmate in the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville, Florida.

"This is my life I'm fighting for," she said while wiping away tears. She added, "If you do everything to get on the right side of the law, and it is a law that does not apply to you, where do you go from there?"

Alexander is referring to Florida's so-called 'stand your ground' law, a law that has come under scrutiny since the killing of Trayvon Martin. Unlike the Martin case, which involved one stranger killing another, Alexander's case involved her gun and her abusive husband.

On August 1, 2010, she said her husband, Rico Gray, read text messages on her phone that she had written to her ex-husband. She said Gray became enraged and accused her of being unfaithful. "That's when he strangled me. He put his hands around my neck," Alexander said.

She managed to escape his grip but instead of running out the front door of their home, she ran into the garage, she said, to get into her truck and drive away. Alexander said that in the confusion of the fight, she forgot to get her keys and the garage door wouldn't open, so she made a fateful decision. "I knew I had to protect myself," she said, adding, "I could not fight him. He was 100 pounds more than me. I grabbed my weapon at that point."

She went back inside the house and when Gray saw her pistol at her side, she said he threatened to kill her, so she raised the gun and fired one shot. "I believe when he threatened to kill me, that's what he was absolutely going to do. That's what he intended to do. Had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here."

Alexander, however, said she did not aim the gun at her husband. She said she fired into the air intending to scare him away and Gray quickly left the house with his two children. No one was hurt in the incident, but Alexander sits in jail facing a 20-year sentence on three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Gray admitted to a history of physical abuse. In a previous incident, Alexander said he beat her so severely she ended up in the hospital and he ended up in jail. "He pushed me, choked me, pushed me so hard into the closet that I hit my head against the wall and passed out for a second," Alexander said.

In a deposition for the case against Alexander, Gray backed up much of his wife's story. "I told her if she ever cheated on me, I would kill her," he said during the proceeding led by a prosecutor for State Attorney Angela Corey's office and his wife's defense attorney.

"If my kids weren't there, I knew I probably would have tried to take the gun from her," Gray said, adding, "If my kids wouldn't have been there, I probably would have put my hand on her." When Alexander's defense attorney asked him what he meant by "put my hand on her," Gray replied, "probably hit her. I got five baby mammas and I put my hands on every last one of them except for one."

Alexander's attorney filed a motion for dismissal under the stand your ground law but at that proceeding her husband changed his story. Gray said he lied during his deposition after conspiring with his wife in an effort to protect her. At the hearing, he denied threatening to kill his wife, adding, "I begged and pleaded for my life when she had the gun." The motion was denied by the judge.

Alexander was offered a plea deal by Corey's office, but she opted to go to trial. A jury found Alexander guilty in 12 minutes. She is baffled why invoking the stand your ground law wasn't successful in her case.

"Other defendants have used it. What's so different about my situation that it doesn't apply to me?" she asked.

The local NAACP believes race may have played a role.

"There's a double standard with stand your ground," said Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville Chapter of the NAACP. "The law is applied differently between African-Americans and whites who are involved in these types of cases," he added.

Rumlin cited two shooting cases in Florida with white shooters: One had a successful stand your ground defense and the other has yet to be charged with a crime. Online blogs are also raising the question of race. Last week, a spokeswoman for the Rev. Al Sharpton confirmed he, too, was looking into Alexander's story. When asked about race as a factor in her case, Alexander declined to comment.

CNN requested an interview with Rico Gray for this story. He agreed but later declined through a family friend, saying he was concerned that speaking publicly would put his life in danger. On Sunday, he resumed contact with CNN, offering an interview to "anyone who would like to pay." Monetary compensation for an interview is against CNN policy.

Through a spokeswoman, State Attorney Angela Corey declined to comment on the case until after the sentencing. Alexander's attorney, Kevin M. Cobbin, is fighting for a new trial and that hearing is tentatively scheduled for next week. If that motion is denied, Alexander will receive a mandatory 20-year sentence with no possibility of parole.

bijouxbroussard bijouxbroussard 46-50, F 6 Responses Dec 19, 2012

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But, but, but, she didn't shoot him! She fired in the air. He has five (5) baby mommas? And he beats 4 of them? Sounds like she's mostly guilty of being a woman.

Wow...this is unreal ;(

I'm tired of hearing countless stories of abused woman who end up killed by their abusive husband then he scapes, but when something like this happens she goes to jail, I'm not surprised.

Very good story!

I remember watching a news report about this very tragic story.

This is a case of spousal abuse. But because of the "stand your ground" law, it's become something else entirely.

I hope this poor woman gets the justice she deserves! And I hope this hideous law gets struck down!

I've been hearing for some time that the SYG laws, like many others, have applied "capriciously", shall we say ? Used when it doesn't apply, like in Trayvon Martin's case, and denied when it clearly does. I saw this example that illustrates the fact.

I know. Race definitely plays a HUGE factor! Have you heard about the latest "SYG"? Here's a link to it?

http://www.npr.org/2012/12/17/167479082/new-case-renews-stand-your-ground-debate-in-fla

Unreal. Lots of parallels. Guess the man felt calling the police for a noise complaint just wasn't expedient enough...so of course he claims after the fact he felt "unsafe". Outrageous. I also saw that ultra-conserve Robert Bork passed away. There will be mourning amongst the Teabaggers, lol...

Yeah. He clearly used the "unsafe" excuse just to take out his aggression on those young men. I hope he gets life in prison!

Robert Bork passed away?! Whoa! I thought he died a long time ago. Yeah i'm sure the Teabaggers are crying themselves a river right now! lol

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We have a very famous term for the way law enforcement and justice is skewed against minorities in the UK , we call it institutional racism.

That's actually the formal term for it here, too. It's only been recent that people have been pretending that racism against minorities was incidental. But in my lifetime there have been the equivalent of apartheid laws on the books in several southern states.

Oh, and Peza: remember Robert Bork, that rabid right-winger Reagan tried (unsuccessfully, thank gawd) to place on the Supreme Court ? Apparently he passed away today. As my grandmother would say, "Le diable sera occupée ce soir."

En effet ! :D